The Internal Revenue Service and the Security Summit have issued a warning to all taxpayers and tax professionals this week as a reminder to be aware of “scams and identity theft schemes by criminals taking advantage of the combination of holiday shopping, the approaching tax season and coronavirus concerns.” The 5th annual National Tax Security Awareness Week coincides with Cyber Monday, (the traditional start of the online holiday shopping season).
Basic Security steps to remember:
- Use security software for computers and mobile phones. Updates are critical.
- Most anti-virus software products have features to stop malware. Make sure that they are enabled. Use a firewall to prevent intrusions.
- Thieves steal personal data through phishing scams in imposter emails, calls and text messages. Do not open links or attachments on suspicious emails. This year especially, scams related to COVID-19 and the Economic Impact Payment are common fraud traps. Phone users are more apt to open a scam email from their phone than from their computer.
- Create strong, unique passwords for online accounts. Consider using a phrase or series of words that can be easily remembered or use a trusted password manager.
- If possible, choose a multi-factor authentication feature. This feature helps prevent thieves from hacking email and social media accounts.
- Look for web addresses that begin with "https" when shopping. The "s" stands for secure communications over a computer network. The “padlock” icon should appear in the browser window.
- Do not shop on unsecured public Wi-Fi in places like the airport, the library, a coffee shop or a mall. Thieves lurk in public places and can eavesdrop.
- At home, secure your home Wi-Fi with a strong password; wireless printers, wireless door locks, wireless thermometers all can become easy access points for identity thieves.
- Back up your files on computers and mobile phones. Use a trusted cloud service or an external hard drive to keep redundant information from computers and phones to ensure a quick and easy way to recover important financial or tax data.
- If you work remotely from home, you will want to consider creating a virtual private network (VPN) to securely connect to your workplace.
- The IRS will not call, text message or email about your tax refund or Economic Impact Payment, threats of jail or lawsuits over unpaid taxes. Beware of scams.
- The FBI and FTC have issued warnings about fraud and scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization.
- See IRS.gov/securitysummit for more details.
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